The truth is that very few photographers have ever produced images with the weight of thought and feeling found in the greatest paintings. The camera is certainly an artistic tool, and photos can certainly be works of art. But can they be works of art of the same order as paintings? Modern critical orthodoxy would say yes. But the real answer is no. Photography lacks the depth and heft, the thinking sense of touch, that painting possesses.
That is why the greatest images of the last 150 years– the images people argue about, contest, return to again and again – are not photographs but paintings
The debate rages on: should appropriated Google Street View photographs be considered art? There are quite a few artists and photographers out there who think it should be. Photographer Michael Wolf was awarded Honorable Mention for his curated screenshots at the World Press Photo 2011. Photographer Aaron Hobson takes screenshots and turns them into gorgeous panoramic photos. Jon Rafman’s screenshots were picked for an exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery.
At first, [Rafman] would spend eight to 12 hours at a time traversing the globe from his desktop. “It was destroying my body,” he says. But when the images he’d collected went viral online, he began to take submissions from other users, too. Some had collected images of prostitutes at work, others presented car accidents, even dead bodies left by the side of the road – and, presumably, ignored by Google’s drivers. Many of the images in the exhibition have now been wiped from the web: the perps lined up against a wall by the São Paolo police are gone from Google Maps. A man sitting with his legs splayed strangely around a lamppost in Toronto has been blurred into obscurity.
Rafman’s images, by contrast, are almost entirely untreated. He even leaves the Google Street View navigation tool in the top-left corner of each photograph. “The work is connected to the history of street photography,” he explains, “but also to the 20th-century ready-made movement. So leaving those artefacts in the image is extremely important. In the bottom-left corner of each picture is a link that says, ‘Report a problem’.
Professor and self-proclaimed cyborg Steve Mann created an eye and memory-aid device he calls the EyeTap Digital Glass. The EyeTap, worn by Mann above on the left, is a wearable device that is similar to Google Eye, pictured right, but he’s been making them at home since the 1980s. The goal of his project is to use images to aid memory, or even to augment the memories of people with Alzheimer’s Disease or who simply want to preserve their memories more permanently. However, a recent misunderstanding over Mann’s technology allegedly caused a confrontation between Mann and several employees at a Paris McDonald’s restaurant. Read more…
Over the past month there has been a back and forth going on in the background of the photographic community between writers/photographers Joerg Colberg and Edward Rozzo. The discussion — which has turned into a fascinating debate on the static present and uncertain future of contemporary photography — was sparked by an article by Colberg entitled “Photography After Photography (A Provocation),” and provocative it was.
Photography has finally arrived at its own existential crisis. It is far from being over – no medium is ever over as long as there is just an ounce of creativity left on this planet. But photography has long been running in a circle. Over the past ten years, it has increasingly become dominated by nostalgia and conservatism. Even the idea that we now need editors or curators to create meaning out of the flood of photographs ultimately is conservative, looking backwards when we could, no we should be looking forward.
Now there’s a headline that’s sure to cause some heated debate (click here for another one). It’s the question asked by the latest episode of PBS’ show Idea Channel:
With its ability to make boring cellphone photos look “vintage” and “artsy”, Instagram has exploded worldwide. Derided by its detractors as a tool for making bad photos worse, we take an alternate view and argue that Instagram is the greatest thing to ever happen to photography. Its simple filters and social networking features are training cellphone photographers everywhere to think creatively about their photos. Plus, the app is turning its worldwide user base into an army of photojournalists capturing striking images of the people and events around them. As the old photography adage goes, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”
PDN has published an interview with art collector Jonathan Sobel, who’s suing photographer William Eggleston for creating and selling new prints of iconic photos that were once sold as “limited edition” prints. The new prints that recently fetched $5.9 million at auction were digital prints that were larger than the original ones.
The dispute boils down to this question: If an artist produces and sells a limited edition of a photographic work, and then re-issues the same image in a different size, or in a different print format or medium, does the re-issue qualify as a separate edition? Or do the new prints breach New York law that defines “limited edition,” and therefore defraud the buyers of those original limited edition versions of the work?
The answer could have a significant effect on the photographic print market. A number of photographers issue limited editions of their works, then later issue new editions of the same works, reprinted at different sizes or in different mediums. The reason is obvious: When an edition sells out, and scarcity drives up the price, artists want to cash in on pent up demand.
Sobel, who has spent 10 years studying and collecting Eggleston’s work, claims that eight of his prints that were previously worth $850,000 have been devalued by the recent sale.
CNN published an opinion piece yesterday by photojournalist Nick Stern, who has some pretty harsh things to say about the spread of Instagram-style “fake images” in the news:
The app photographer hasn’t spent years learning his or her trade, imagining the scene, waiting for the light to fall just right, swapping lenses and switching angles. They haven’t spent hours in the dark room, leaning over trays of noxious chemicals until the early hours of the morning.
Nor did they have to spend a huge chunk of their income on the latest digital equipment ($5,999 of my hard-earned cash just went on ordering a new Nikon D4) to ensure they stay on top of their game.
The app photographer merely has to click a software button and 10 seconds later is rewarded with a masterpiece.
Stern also states that “Any news photographer worth his or her salt will tell you that the best camera is one that lets you take the photo unencumbered by the technicalities of the process.”
Photography author Ben Long has a thought-provoking article over at CreativePro in which he argues that “all photos are manipulated” and that “there is no such thing as absolute truth in photography”:
All images are Photoshopped. Or Lightroomed, or iPhoto’d, or dodged, burned, re-touched, cross-processed, developed with more or less agitation in the tank, at warmer or cooler temperatures, and so on and so forth. This has been true since the beginning of photography.
Understanding the representational nature of photography will help you take better pictures because you’ll better understand how to exploit the strengths and weaknesses of the medium.
But perhaps more importantly, it’s important to understand that all images are manipulated. Still photos are the dominant communication medium used for everything from entertainment to artistic expression, journalism to sales. Becoming a more informed, understanding viewer will make it easier to understand when and whether there’s any “truth” in the images put before you.